What is Power BI?
Power BI is a program created by Microsoft that allows you to take data and turn it into something that is not only visually appealing, but also interactive and engaging. Power BI allows you to connect dynamic sources such as SQL, Dynamics, and more, to create charts and graphs that constantly update as they receive new data. This means less work for you, the user, as you're free to dig into the data, instead of spend your time manually refreshing it.
Recently, we have been getting a ton of interest in Power BI from new and current customers. One partner, in particular, had such great questions that we figured there must be others who would benefit from hearing the answers. So, we created this blog for them (and you!). A big thank you to A. Janssen for the great idea! I hope this is helpful. So, without further ado, let's jump in!
There are 3 versions of Power BI. Free, Pro, and Premium. The free version is really only for personal use. It’s target customer would be someone who wants to create charts and graphs for their own personal consumption. Since our specialties are small, medium and enterprise businesses, this blog will focus on the Pro and Premium versions.
Power BI Pro vs. Premium
With Power BI Pro, users are individually licensed and can both create and consume content. All Pro users can connect to hundreds of sources from which to pull data, create interactive reports and view 360-degree dashboards. Pro users can also share that content with other Pro users, and consume content shared by others.
With Power BI Premium, you are purchasing a licenses for your actual content rather than licensing all users of that content. Content (datasets, dashboards, and reports) is stored in Premium and can then be viewed by as many users as you want, without additional per-user costs. These users can only view content, not create it. Viewing includes looking at dashboards and reports on the web, in our mobile apps, or embedded in your organization’s portals or apps. The creators of content in Premium still need their own Pro licenses.
Put simply: Pro would be best put to use by organizations wanting to create and share content internally whereas Premium would be best used by organizations wanting to share their content with individuals outside of their organization. Please note (and notice below) that Power BI Pro is included with your Office 365 E5 and Microsoft 365 E5 licenses. This is helpful when deciphering between Office 365 E3 vs. E5.
The chart below shows the differences between Pro and Premium:
Power BI Pro vs. Premium Features Comparison
Power BI Pro Features
From the horse's mouth (aka Microsoft): "Power BI Pro is an individual user license that allows access to all content and capabilities in the Power BI service." Basically, Pro is a full strength Power BI. A Pro license enables you to use Power BI for both building dashboards and reports. It allows for unlimited viewing, sharing and consumption of your created reports. The same goes for reports shared by other Pro users.
A breakdown of Power BI Pro’s main uses:
- Ability to embed Power BI visuals into apps (PowerApps, SharePoint, Teams, etc.)
- Native integration with other Microsoft solutions (Azure Data, Dynamics, Excel, etc.)
- Share datasets, dashboards and reports with other Power BI Pro users
- Create App Workspaces and peer-to-peer sharing
Power BI Pro is a per user license and is required to both create AND view content. For example, if your organization has 20 people who need the full capabilities of self-service Power BI to create dashboards and reports, you'll need 20 Power BI Pro licenses. This will give these 20 users full access to creation of reports and unlimited consumption (viewing) of any created content. FYI, you can purchase Power BI Pro licenses here.
I can’t stress enough that users will need a Power BI Pro license simply to VIEW content. This can become very expensive if your organization is large, or if you are mainly creating dashboards for users outside of your organization. If you fall into one of these categories, you may want to look into Power BI Premium, which we are going to discuss next.
Power BI Premium Features
Power BI Premium is the top tier of Power BI currently available and is very distinct from the other versions available on the market.
In addition to the features and functionality standard to users of Power BI Pro, users of Power BI Premium also get:
- Increased data capacity limits
- Larger storage sizes for extended deployments
- Geo distribution, higher refresh rates, isolation, pin to memory, and read-only replicas
Power BI Premium licensing is different from Pro in the sense that you are no longer purchasing the license for the individual user, and instead you are purchasing the license for an actual dataset or project. You can purchase Premium licenses in a range of capacity sizes that offer different numbers of memory and virtual cores that can scale as your data analysis requirements change. So as your datasets grow, you can upgrade your licenses to accommodate the new storage and power requirements needed. Below are all of the Power BI Premium SKUs, and what you get with them:
All of your content is stored in Premium and can then be viewed by as many users in your organization as you want, without additional per-user costs. However, anyone that wishes to create content and dashboards will still need a Power BI Pro license. Here’s an awesome video that explains the basics of Power BI Premium.
Power BI Pro vs. Premium Pricing
Power BI Pro Pricing
The Pro plan costs $10/user/month. It includes data collaboration, data governance, dashboards with a 360-degree real-time view and the ability to publish reports anywhere.
Power BI Premium Pricing
The Premium plan starts at $5000 a month. Similar to Azure, the price for Premium scales as your resource needs increase. The first tier, which starts at $5000/month, is perfectly sufficient for most businesses. However, if you run a larger organization, there are higher tiers which provide more resources for a higher price. Luckily, Microsoft has developed a calculator to help you decipher which level of Premium you might need.
Power BI Pro vs. Premium: Which is Right for Me?
Power BI Pro is for medium to heavy data analytics users who plan to use Power BI regularly for both creation and consumption and wish to share data, dashboards and reports with other Pro users. For small and medium businesses, Power BI Pro is optimal to deliver full business intelligence capabilities to all users.
Power BI Premium is best for large enterprise organizations who need a large number of people across the business to be able use Power BI to view dashboards and reports. Premium also supports larger data volumes (you can publish datasets up to 10GB) and sports greater performance (refresh data up to 48x per day) but most importantly, it allows people in your organization with Pro licenses to publish content that can be viewed by individuals without a license.
If you're still debating between the two, I'm happy to discuss pros and cons with you. Schedule a 15-minute session here:
Microsoft just announced a new upcoming license structure called “Power BI Premium per user”. This license will place itself between Power BI Pro and Premium. It seems to be created for smaller businesses that want most of the Premium functionality, without the $5000/month minimum cost. The main things the per user licenses will be missing out on are Multi-geo support and unlimited distribution. Here’s a quick comparison chart between the two.
This license is still in preview, so none of the details are concrete, and the pricing has not yet been announced. However, you can be assured that we will keep you in the know. Make sure to subscribe to the blog to get the latest scoop!
Questions? Comments? Leave yours below 👇 Curious if Power BI is right for your business? Schedule a consult with me using this scheduler: